Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Make-Ahead Roast Turkey

Make-Ahead Roast Turkey

Prep Time: 3 days minutes
Cook Time: 180 minutes
Servings: 8

Ina Garten says that the most stressful things about Thanksgiving are carving the turkey at the last minute and keeping it hot on the buffet. What she discovered is that she could carve the turkey in advance, arrange it on an ovenproof platter over a layer of gravy and then reheat it all together. Not only was the turkey moist and delicious, but it stayed hot longer!


  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 (12- to 14-pound/6- to 7-kg) fresh turkey
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and cut in eighths
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions and Sage


Two or three days before you plan to roast the turkey, combine 3 Tbs. of salt, the minced thyme and lemon zest. Wash the turkey inside and out, drain it well and pat it all over with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the salt mixture in the cavity of the turkey and rub the rest on the skin, including under the wings and legs. Place the turkey in a shallow dish just large enough to hold it and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 or 2 days. The day before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and leave the turkey in the fridge. The skin will dry out and turn a little translucent.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°F). Put the turkey in a large roasting pan, discarding any juices in the dish. Place the onion, lemon and thyme sprigs in the cavity. With kitchen string, tie the legs together and the wings close to the body. Brush the turkey with the butter and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.

Roast the turkey for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, until the breast meat registers 165°F (74°C) (put the thermometer in sideways) on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a platter. Cut off the legs and thighs and put them back into the roasting pan, covering the breast and carcass tightly with aluminum foil. Place the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the dark meat registers 180°F (82°C). Remove the dark meat to the platter with the turkey, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Pour a 1/4-inch (6-mm) layer of the gravy into a large (12 x 16-inch/30 x 40-cm) ovenproof serving platter (make sure it’s ovenproof!) Carve the turkey and arrange it artfully on top of the gravy. Place the platter uncovered into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is very hot. Serve hot with extra gravy on the side. Serves 8.

Recipe from Ina Garten, Make It Ahead (Clarkson Potter, 2014)